Nitel's New Channel Chief On Consultative Selling, Getting Out The 'Nitel Story' To The Partner Community

Looking At Channel Strategy With Fresh Eyes

Taylor Castranova isn't just Nitel's new channel chief, although that is a big part of her job.

Castranova, an 11-year Windstream veteran, joined telecom service provider Nitel in August as its new vice president of channel sales and account development. In her new role, Castranova is building out Nitel's account development group and helping to redefine Nitel for partners, as well as what customer service means for end clients. It's the first time the two teams will roll up under one leader.

Here's what Castranova had to say about the "new Nitel," a soon-to-be-unveiled program, and how the provider will be addressing partner concerns.

Read more about how Nitel is paving the way for partner growth here.

What is your new role with Nitel?

The role incorporates a few different things across the business. Reporting to me will be all of sales -- wholesale and channel -- I'll have business development, headed by Chris Shubert, and I'll have customer service, which is following under the sales organization for a few different reasons.

The piece that I'm creating is the account management team. A group of strategic account managers that are geographically based throughout the country where we have the highest concentration of customers that will be solely focused on customer experience and retention, and then following through on key milestones throughout the customer's life cycle.

How have you been re-evaluating Nitel's channel team and the resources it previously had in place for partners and customers?

I've been evaluating the current geographic alignment and associated resources because I want to make sure we have the right coverage in key markets. Part of that is building out our teams. We obviously have channel managers in the field today, but now we are adding more regional channel directors throughout the country.

The other piece is building out that strategic account management organization focusing on existing customers. Those two teams will work in conjunction with each other, and then on the back end of that is the customer care team. My group is now responsible for everything from the initial presale, business development side -- who are we going after, why are we doing it, what are we going to sell them and why -- all the way through renegotiation of the customer deal once we have already sold to them.

What do solution providers need from their supplier partners today?

The thing I hear a lot from partners and customers is really that need for that consultative touch and approach. They want someone to come in and take that holistic view, they want presales engagement and engineering and someone sitting down and really working with them on what they are looking to achieve. We have an engineering team and we have a model that puts them in front of the customer early on in the process. We also have project management throughout the process because something else I hear from customers is that it's one thing to consult and build the right solution, but if you can't deliver it, then it doesn’t mean anything. Now we have someone filling the solution up front and then the dedicated account management team that is going to pick up on the back end and support [customers] throughout the life cycle.

It's that human aspect that's what we're really working on, and what the partner is really looking for from us.

Is Nitel actively recruiting new partners?

We are putting together an analysis to figure out where we've had success and how to expand on that. Considering things like, who are we working with today, who do we want to add to that portfolio. There's a lot more that's going to be coming out about that within our master agent segment -- a new program that is going to be called Nitel Elite.

Most of our business today is coming from our master [agents] but beyond that, there is a lot of partners underneath those masters that we are not doing business with today. There is a need to get the Nitel story out to the community and I think we have an opportunity to do that and expand on who we're are working with today.

How is Nitel different today from the company that partners may have been familiar with in the past?

There's an expansion under way at Nitel. Account management was the piece Nitel didn't have in place -- they didn't have proactive, strategic account managers that are on-site, local to the areas where customers are, and working in conjunction with partners to do business reviews with CIOs across the country to really look at expanding the existing customer base. We are really building out that proactive piece.

Who Nitel was is not the Nitel of today. Now we have SD-WAN and security offerings as part of the product portfolio that didn’t exist before. We have always been a company that was known for anytime, anywhere connectivity because throughout the country we can reach all the underlying carriers, but it's going to be more than that now and getting that story out on the business development side is going to be key. There's a lot of trainings that are under way and we are getting involved with our sales teams to go over communication in the field with the new Nitel story both from a branding and solutions standpoint.

How is Nitel helping partners get up to speed with SD-WAN?

We will be rolling out a series of webinars and an educational series for our partners where we will touch on trends in the industry, how we deploy SD-WAN, and some of the benefits of the Versa [Networks] platform, which Nitel uses to deploy its SD-WAN solution. That's really a big focus for us because the Versa platform gives us a lot of analytics and reporting, but also greater reach than [some of the competing solutions], which have some limitations. We will be educating [partners] on the consultative approach, why SD-WAN makes sense for certain customers now, and which industries are looking at it more than others.

What concerns are top of mind for solution providers right now?

I've heard a couple different things from partners. The trend of consolidation from all of the mergers and acquisitions can be concerning, just from the perspective of who can they can work with as those companies are becoming less and less. There is a trend when it comes to infrastructure and cloud migration as companies try to do more with less. Customers have less resources on the inside, so there is a big push for managed services. Here now at Nitel we are well positioned to address both of those because of the fact that we can leverage key contracts with underlying carriers a customer might need.

As Nitel's new channel leader, what is your message to partners?

I've thought a lot about this. You really only have one opportunity to relaunch and redefine -- it’s the kind of like a second first impression. I want partners to understand that we are a company built with a channel-first focus ... it's really a big and unique benefit. Our success lies in mutual success of our partners, and our mission is to be the top choice for partners -- not just based on the fact that we are priced competitively, but because our process throughout the customer life cycle is unmatched. It's about allocating those resources and building that experience, and my commitment to that is absolute.

As we continue our investment in the channel, I'll continue to hire and lead the team that makes partner success a top priority -- that's our top focus.